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Scarlet Kingsnake
Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides

  • Hatchling: 5 - 7 in.
  • Adult: 14 - 20 in.(normal) 27 in.(record)

  • Dorsal: 17 - 19 near mid body
  • Ventral: 152 - 194
  • Sub caudal: 32 - 51
  • Infra labial:7 - 10
  • Supra labial: 7
  • Anal Plate: Single

Photo courtesy Martin Schmidt
click to enlarge
Written by Gerald Keown

  • Head:

  • Red head with a black line across the posterior portion of the parietals.

  • Dorsal:

  • Normally has 12 - 22 red rings, alternating with yellow and black. This little snake is a mimic of the Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius fulvius) which also occurs throughout the same range. The Scarlet Kingsnake always has a red snout with the yellow rings being seperated from the red rings by black. In the Coral Snake, the snout is black and the yellow and red rings touch. In the northern portion of their range, specimens tend to have narrower yellow rings than those animals found further south. Some specimens from southern Florida exhibit wider black rings, sometimes even bridging the red rings dorsally.

  • Ventral:

  • The red, yellow and black ringed pattern normally crosses the belly.


A small nocturnal kingsnake that is seldom found in the open except at night after heavy rains. It is very secretive and is most commonly found beneath logs and bark. .

The temperment of Scarlet Kingsnakes varies, but most tend to be very nervous little animals, quickly assuming a defensive posture when distrubed. While they generally appear to adopt well in captivity, anyone keeping them should be forewarned - they are true excape artists. In captivity, they are best maintained on a substrate of pine bark or cyprus mulch and should be provided some type of hide box. There is one record of a Scarlet Kingsnake living for 21 years in captivity (Bowler, J.K. 1977. Longevity of Reptiles and Amphibians in North American Collections. Soc. Stud. Amph. Rept. Misc. Publ. Herpetol. Cicr.(6) 1-32).


Scarlet Kingsnakes are rather easy to breed in captivity; however, few people seem to breed them, probably due to the small size of the neotates. Scarlet Kingsnakes need a winter brumation period of 2 to 3 months at 55 - 65 degrees F, if they are to be sucessfully bred. Breeding usually takes place in April or early May with 2 - 6 eggs being laid in May or June. The incubation period for the eggs is 52 to 57 days.


South Central Virginia southward to Key West, Florida and westward to the Mississippi River. The species is more abundant along the Coastal Plain but has been collected inland at altitudes of almost 2,000 feet. Specimens from Florida seem to reach greater length that do those found further north.


It prefers wooded areas containing pine trees. This species is frequently collected during March and April in decaying pine stumps just above ground level. The author once found three of these "living jewels" under the bark of a single rotten pine stump only inches apart. When searching for Scarlet Kingsnakes in this type of habitat, collectors should excerise great care not to destory habitat. One collector in Mississippi has told the author of carefully removing the bark from pine stumps and collecting these animals, then replacing the bark around the tree holding it in place with twine, only to return each of the following years to find more of these "jewels" in the same stump.


Food typically includes lizards, other small snakes, baby mice, earthworms and possibly other insects. Lizards appear to be the preferred food, especially skinks.

Photo by Troy Hibbitts
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